Things have gone from bad to worse for UFC fighter and Angels Camp native TJ Dillashaw.
Dillashaw voluntarily relinquished his UFC bantamweight championship on March 20 when the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) discovered an “adverse finding” from a test taken before a flyweight title fight in January against Henry Cejudo.
On Tuesday, the USADA announced a two-year suspension of Dillashaw for testing positive for recombinant human erythropoietin (EPO).
“We all know the pressures to win at all levels of all sport are real and intense,” USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart said in a released statement. “It is exactly why strong anti-doping efforts are necessary to protect clean athletes’ rights, health and safety and to ensure that those who do succumb to these pressures and decide to break the rules will be held accountable in a real and meaningful way, as in this case.”
EPO is a synthetic hormone drug that is injected into the blood and will increase the red blood cell count, which will then help produce more oxygen and will allow an athlete to last longer during strenuous workouts.
Dillashaw, 33, joins Gleison Tibau as the second UFC fighter to be suspended for EPO. UFC fighter, and former Team Alpha Male teammate of Dillashaw, Cody Garbrandt accused Dillashaw on Twitter on April 18, 2018, of using EPO.
Garbrandt wrote, “... I’m talking about the March fight and then you said you were hurt, must be all that EPO going to your head! Have a safe camp and see you in aug! [sic]” Dillashaw went on to defeat Garbrandt at UFC 227 in August of 2018 to retain his bantamweight title.
UFC President Dana White has yet to comment on the suspension, but UFC Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance Jeff Novitzky told ESPN, “I'm quite familiar with EPO from my days investigating professional cycling teams. It's a very effective substance. It's not a substance you find in contaminated supplements; it's injectable only. You have to know what you're doing when it enters your system.”
Novitzky added, “On a scale of seriousness in anti-doping, it’s up near the top.”
Dillashaw’s official suspension began Jan. 18, the date he was tested and will be eligible to fight again in January, 2021. Dillashaw has yet to comment on the suspension.